You Are What You Eat, and So Is Your Dog

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I wouldn’t call myself a health nut, but I do believe in eating whole foods that retain their nutritional value and are not processed.  I am definitely not militant about this, but I try not to eat foods with preservatives or pre-made/pre-packaged foods.  I really believe that what we eat affects not just our outward appearance, but also our inner health and well being.  I have extended these beliefs to my dog’s nutrition as well, and have been preparing his food from scratch since he was about 12 weeks old. I’d like to share my recipe with you. If you are interested in cooking for your dog, give it a try!

Many people tease me about cooking for my dog and say that Snickers is spoiled, but providing my pup with proper nutrition free of preservatives and byproducts is my main priority.  I did quite a bit of research online and by talking to several veterinarians prior to settling on the “right” recipe for Snickers’ food.

fluffy chihuahua standing on a table

Here is the little angel.

Although your dog may be the most gentle and sweet pup, he is still a descendant of the wolf and retains his carnivorous physiology.  The best source of amino acids for dogs is animal protein from meat, though dogs can consume and metabolize proteins from vegetables and grains.  A general rule is that a dog requires about 1 ounce of high quality protein per two pounds of body weight per day. Component amino acids from protein are used for bones, muscles and tissues, and since puppies are still growing, they require a higher percentage of these amino acids than adult dogs.  A puppy’s diet should contain about 28% protein while an adult dog’s diet only needs to contain about 18% protein.

Based on these numbers and the research I had conducted, I decided to create a stew for Snickers that incorporated meat proteins, some whole grains and some vegetables.  I usually use ground turkey for the meat, but sometimes I switch it out to beef or chicken or a combination of the three.

Ingredients:

3 lbs ground turkey (I use the 15% fat / 85% lean turkey)

3 large yams

¾ to 1 cup of steel cut oats (I usually eyeball this)

1 lb spinach (fresh or frozen)

1 lb green peas (fresh or frozen)

ingredients for homemade dog food

The ingredients.

Step 1:

Wash the yams well and chop them into medium sized chunks (the smaller the chunks the faster the stew will be ready).

Step 2:

Using a large non-stick pot, place the yams in the pot and cover with enough water to have about two inches of water over the yams.

yams cooking in a pot

Steps 1,2 & 3.

Step 3:

Bring water and yams to a boil (uncovered) and continue to let yams boil until they start to become soft.

Step 4:

Once the yams start to become soft, add the steel cut oats.  Let yams and oats cook for about 20 more minutes.

adding steel cut oats to boiling yams

Step 4

Step 5:

Once the yams and oats are practically cooked, add in the turkey.  Mix in the turkey with the yams and oats until all of the turkey is covered and starts to cook. Let the turkey cook for about five minutes.

adding turkey to homemade dog food

Step 5.

Step 6:

Add in the peas and spinach and mix well. The spinach and peas should cook very quickly and you do not want to overcook them because then they start to lose their nutritional value.

homemade dog food

Step 6.

Step 7:

Cool and serve!  I like to portion out the stew into several containers and freeze all but one so that the stew is fresh each time I serve it to Snickers.

homemade dog food

Finished! Once it’s cooled, it’s ready to serve!

I usually give Snickers about a cup of stew in the morning and a cup of stew in the evening.  Snickers weighs about 15 pounds, so he doesn’t need much food.  I usually make this batch of stew every two weeks.  Snickers has only been fed homemade food since he was about 12 weeks old and has been very healthy.  He never smells (even after a month of not bathing), does not have any itching or allergies and appears to truly enjoy meal time, everytime!  For treats he usually gets little pieces of broccoli, peas or cheese.  The only time I ever give him actual dog treats is when I’m training him to do new tricks.  His teeth get continuous compliments as does his fur coat.  I really believe that having a whole foods diet is contributing to his well-being, both inside and out.

chihuahua eats out of a white bowl

Yum!

I’d love to hear any recommendations for additional dog food recipes. Please comment below with any recipes!

55 Responses

  1. Melissa says:

    Thank you for sharing! I currently feed my dog a alkaline based holistic dog food and occasionally i feed her chicken and brown rice. i’m excited to try this new recipe! it’s not that our dogs are spoiled, it’s that we care for their health and hopefully will have less vet bills down the road!

    • Annie M says:

      Thanks Melissa! I think that home cooking can even be comparable in price to what you would pay for nice commercial food. I agree though, I can’t think of anything I’d rather spend my money on than my dog.

  2. Toan says:

    Thanks for sharing Miriam! My little girl (puppie) Snow just recently turned one, since she was 8 weeks old I’ve been feeding her the best of Blue Buffalo’s dry, wet, and raw food… Lately she has grown tiresome of her food and sometimes even skips meals. I came upon your recipe while searching the web for natural cooking dog recipe. Since I started cooking for her she loves meal time now! Thanks!

  3. brit says:

    Hi that is a great recipe to add for my home cooked dog food. However just curious what you use for calcium which is so important. I usually add 1/2tsp per lb of meat of powdered egg shells (I buy organic eggs, rinse out the shells and let them dry and then powder them in my Braun coffee/nut mill).

    • Annie M says:

      Hi Brit,
      Spinach is high in calcium and she also adds broccoli occasionally. I have never heard of powdered egg shells before, sounds like a good idea!

  4. Lisa says:

    I started my dog on a whole(real) foods diet when she was a few months old due to allergies and recently started my senior cat on it. I commend the article as well as anyone starting the journey and hope one day that the politics in food (ours and our pets) fade. I feel the need to express that what we might consider a balanced diet for our animals might not be and it’s very important to discuss your planned nutrition with a holistic vet.(a regular vet will look at you funny). I noticed the topic of calcium come up in the comments and wanted to add that it’s imperative especially for a young dog to have the proper calcium to phosphorus ratio. An excellent reference is Dr. Pitcairn’s New Complete guide to natural health.

    • Annie M says:

      Thanks for sharing your tips Lisa! We are always on the hunt for recommended pet care books too. I agree that seeing a holistic vet to get started is so important, it is amazing what a difference a raw diet can make!

  5. Alisa L says:

    Great recipe. I havent started cooking for my dog yet, but have very interested in doing so. I have been told that I should wait till my puppy is a year old before I start making homemade meals. I’ve seen some comment stating they have been feeding their dog home cooked meals since they were puppies. Is there a risk with starting my dog on this diet before he is a year? Also I have read that supplements should be added to their meals. does anyone use a certain supplement?

  6. Katy says:

    I used to buy canned food but now I cook for my german shepherd myself. Thank you for your recipe. It took some time to make but it was worth it!

  7. Toccoa says:

    This is one of the best articles on ingredients, dogs size, and feeding guidelines! Thank you for sharing, I have been cooking my dogs food for about a week now and this is helpful. I have a 4yr old cane corso who has been on grain free canadae kibble his whole life until we recently came into a second cane corso as a foster. Combined, they consumed a 30lb bag each week and I have since cut that food bill in half(literally, I spend $28 a week now for 230lbs of dog)! I vary their recipe and one I like is this:
    4 cups brown rice
    4 sweet potatoes
    2 cups frozen snap peas and petite peas
    1 cup broccoli cuts
    1 cup carrot juice
    3 eggs scrambled
    2 lbs chicken breast

    this lasts me about 2 days for my dogs and i add fish oil and every other day nonfat greek yogurt for calcium. Since I cook so frequently for them I will exchange half of the brown rice for oats and barley or entirely with quinoa.

    • Annie M says:

      Thanks for sharing your recipe Tocca. You have 2 Cane Corso’s in the house?! So glad to hear the homemade route is saving you some money!

  8. RuppMa says:

    I have been cooking for my Hound+German Shepard since I adopted her in February. She’s estimated to be about 6 and has Addisons.
    Whole Fyer – baked, boiled, or crock pot
    4-5 medium sweet potatoes
    1-2 large white potatoes
    1 cup of Quinoa which cooks up to about 2 1/2 cups
    Fresh veggies, what ever is in season and looks good at the market (I’ve used cabbage, zuchini, spinach, green beans, brocoli, cauliflower, corn – off the cob, and carrots so far)
    She’s a larger dog so this is a weekly event but it’s so worth the effort. She watches the whole process from the dining room!
    I’m definately going to try your stew!

  9. Gina C says:

    Thanks for this. I recently took my dog off Kibbles because she has Cushings and it leads to excessive thirst. It just didn’t seem right giving her a can a day of just dog food – and it seemed like I could get a whole chicken on sale for cheaper. So that’s what I did. Then I was thinking that she probably needs veggies and other things so I started researching online and came across your recipe. It’s perfect because she’s 15 pounds too. I’m going to make this ASAP. She’s loving the real food any way. Bless her heart. She’s 15 years old and is aging quickly. (I also ordered some holistic medicine for the Cushings, but it hasn’t arrived yet.)

    • Annie M says:

      Thanks Gina! That sounds like a great plan and I’m sure you’ll start to see positive results right away, your dog is very lucky to have such a great mom. Take care!

  10. Sandra says:

    I have a 9 pound Chi and a 16 pound pug mix. I want to start cooking for them, but I’m not sure how much to feed them if I cook for them.

  11. Carol says:

    Thank you for your post. I am still researching recipes to start cooking for my dogs, one has severe allergies. I can’t wait to try your recipe and others. I’m going to keep record on how they do coat and weight wise. Did you notice changes and when did they start?

  12. Sarah says:

    I made this for my 40-lb boxer/pit. He loved it! I added green beans (chopped up in the food processor) and a pet kelp powder with glucosamine and chondroitin for his joints. I’m going to add ground egg shells tonight. Thanks for this recipe. It’s easier to make than the meals I have been preparing for him.

  13. sandra says:

    Thanks for posting this! We just found out (after many doctors visits) that my dog is allergic to many things in commercial dog food. I’m going to have to start cooking my dog’s food and this is a great starting point! :D

  14. nella says:

    Hi, I have a 20 pound petite goldendoodle. I would love to start cooking meals for her but I am constantly being told that dogs need extra vitamins and minerals that a homecooked meal cannot give them. Is this true? Do I need to add supplements to homecooked meals i make for my Daisy?

    • Annie M says:

      Hi Nella, That is not true. Lot’s of dog owners feed raw or home-cooked meals and don’t buy commercial dog food. What supplements you’ll need (or not) depends on what diet you choose. I think you should consult a holistic vet and they can advise on what homemade or raw diet would be right for your dog. Thanks!

  15. Kathie says:

    Wanting to cook for my 12 lb Chihuahua mix. She seems to have skin & weight issue with regular pet food I have been cooking brown rice/with vegies/pumpkin puree. I give her 1/2 cup am & pm.

  16. kristen says:

    Great recipe. Just beginning to explore outside of the vet world. Our 10 month lab/weimeriner/boxer mix has been on Wellness, Blue and Natures something, supposedly the better foods and has diarrhea constantly. When I feed him real chicken and oatmeal it firms his stool. I will begin to try some real food recipes. What do you do if you have to kennel your dog and don’t do dry food?

  17. Barb says:

    I have a little Pomeranian which she is my life I have been cooking for her since she was 1 years old she had a lot of stomach problems and diarrhea. when I switch and started cooking for her which has been for 6-1/2 years she has been so healthy no more problems. I have studied a lot and have learn what is good for her and what is bad after reading the above comments I have some concerns Nella: asked about supplements. yes it is very important to add supplements without them your baby could get sick and have a lot of problems it is very important that they also have the supplements everyday added to there food
    Herbal Multi-Vitamin…
    Plant Enzymes & Probiotics..
    Natural calcium…..
    Fish oil, Salmon oil or flax seed (omega-3)

    Miriam: Your stew sounds great can’t wait to try it but I think I will leave the Oats out I never give my Baby Grains Gluten or Wheat or Carbs I will add just a couple more vegetables Thanks for the recipe
    Barb.

  18. Rachel says:

    Hi I want to start cooking homemade meals for my dog and found this recipe. Does the recipe you provided have everything a dog needs or do I have to add supplements with this meal?

    • Annie M says:

      Hi Rachel,
      I suggest you do what Miriam did which was online research as well as talking to her vet. Different dogs have different dietary needs depending on their size and adding a supplement for any predisposed genetic conditions is probably a good idea. Let us know what you find out, thanks!

  19. Debra Morgenstern says:

    I have a 10 year old Great Pyrenees rescues, 108#. Has terrible skin issues and itches and chews constantly. Would like to make his food and wonder how much a dog this size would require? He was severely underweight when he found me in August and has gained 25# on dry food in 5 months.

    • Annie M says:

      Hi Debra, I would ask your vet what his daily amount of this type of food should be. My thought is that they would need much more of the raw type food over commercially prepared. Snickers is about 12 pounds and eats 2 cups a day, you could scale that up but best to get your vet’s recommendation so you aren’t under or over feeding. Thanks!

  20. Patti says:

    I began cooking for my dogs about 7 years ago. I talked to my vet who told me that dogs have nutritional needs that are very similar to human’s. My basic recipe is similar to others above: 2 – 2.5 lbs meat (any kind your dog can tolerate and likes), 3 cups cooked whole grains (brown rice, barley, oats,etc.), 4 cups starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash,etc.) and two cups of other veggies or fruits ( peas, carrots, tomatoes, apples, blueberries,etc.). I also add turmeric (anti-inflammatory spice) and parsley (breath-freshener). I cook the meat, grain, and starchy veggie in the crockpot until tender then add everything else about half an hour before it’s done. I have 3 dogs and this recipe will feed them for about 4 days – 2 times per day, 1/2 cup at each meal. They get a couple of tablespoons of cottage cheese in the morning. We weigh them monthly and their weights have all been stable for two years. I’ve done the math, and as long as I pay no more than $3 per pound for the meat, it doesn’t cost anymore than a premium dogfood. When I have to take them to a kennel, I will put the food in 8 ounce canning jars while it’s hot and then store in the refrigerator. This creates a vacuum seal and increases the storage life. (This is not the same as canning it and still has to go in the refrigerator.) It also makes it a little easier for the folks at the kennel. All three of our dogs are rescues and had health issues when they came to us. The male had a sensitive stomach and got diarrhea quite easily. That rarely happens now. The two girls had been abandoned and nearly starved to death. Their immune systems were so ravaged that one had bronchitis twice and a staff infection and the other one had two staff infections in the first year after we got them. Besides being within a healthy weight range, they have no health issues and no ear problems – all are cocker spaniels.

    • Annie M says:

      Thanks for sharing your raw food recipe Patti! A bunch of us here at the office have been making Snicker’s stew and trying out variations and the ratio’s and different varieties of foods you shared will be particularly helpful, thanks again!

  21. Patti says:

    Forgot to say that we do a rotation on the meat – chicken/turkey to pork to beef to fish. This lets us give them some variety but helps avoid gastric issues. The fish is usually salmon or lake trout (my husband likes to fish) so I don’t supplement with omega-3 but it’s easy to add fish oil if you don’t have a cost effective source for fish. Two of my dogs love veggies and fruit so that’s what I treat with. The other one is not much of a snacker but prefers meat when she does.

  22. Tammy says:

    Miriam, so using your formula, my 80 pound dog should ingest 40 oz of protein per day?

  23. Nina says:

    I have a 16 pound Coton de Tulear. If I understood right, he should get about a good cup at the morning and again evening? How much is a cup in grams? I’am from Europe, we don’t messure in cups.

  24. Shirley says:

    I have a 3.5 pound Chihuahua and a rat terrior Chihuahua mix whose about 7 pounds. Can anyone suggest sone receipe that would be good for them. They are both about to be 1 in the next month. Im on a limited income but still want them to have healthy meals thay I can make and know what they are eating. Thanks

  25. Mariea says:

    If you want supplements go to springtime.com these are very good products for pets and people give it a go call for their catalog

  26. Amanda says:

    I use to cook for my golden thought I would look around for other recipes. I always add some chia seeds, chicken hearts, gizzards, and liver to my stew. I have another dog and just rescued a puppy mill dog and he is sooo skinny and he isn’t a big eater. Hopefully this helps him.

  27. vennessa says:

    i would like to start cooking for my 4 year old siberian husky/lab mix. she is considered obese and so i am looking for a simple lean GRAIN FREE recipe. Any suggestions?

  28. Lori says:

    My Olive suffers from terribly itchy skin. I look forward to trying this recipe for her. I am going out right now to buy all of the ingredients. Thank you so much for sharing! :)

  29. Sherri M says:

    Hello Annie,

    I am so happy to have found your blog! My dog 13 year old dog Storm is suffering from what her doctor thinks is a bad abscess that could be a tumor as well. Storm has an underactive thyroid so she has gotten back on her medication to regulate it in hopes of considering dental surgery to remove the abscess. Her vet also said the growth could be a tumor in which the surgery for it is very extensive and would require removing part of her jaw. At age 13 I don’t want to do that to her especially since she is still active, eating well and playing with her toys. I have been doing some research on cooking for her so her diet is completely alkaline to help kill some of the cancer cells she may have. Is the recipe you list above alkaline? Do you have a list of alkaline foods that are safe for pets you could share with me? This has been so helpful! You can email me if you like and my email is sherrimcdonald@gmail.com

    Thank you,
    Sherri M.

    • Annie M says:

      Hi Sherri, I don’t have all the info you are seeking but I think I can point you in the right direction. I think your plan sounds great, if I were you, I would consult some experts. I am not sure where you live, but there is a company called Just Food For Dogs and these guys work one on one with clients to formulate a diet for your dog that is specific to their health needs. If you have a little money to spend, they can tailor a diet especially for your dog, you have a consultation, they make a plan and then you prepare the food, I will email this info to you as well but I hope that helps! Take Care!

  30. Tyler H says:

    I was thinking about using brown rice in place of oats. Would I still add the rice @ the same time the oats would normally be added ? Also, when I want to switch it up for my pup, what could I use in place of spinach that has good source of calcium?

    • Annie M says:

      Hi Tyler, You would add the rice earlier because rice takes longer to cook than oats, you can substitute Kale for spinach. Kale is high in calcium and safe for dogs to eat. I’m sure your dog will love it! Thanks!

  31. Ditta says:

    My dogs are 15 years old and are allergic to everything…literally, every time I stray a bit they get rashes. Right now the only thing they do not react to is fish and Yams. I cook fish and yams and add some blueberries, (so far no reaction) I know I cannot do grains of any kind do you think I could add quinoa?

  32. Nagesh Ch. says:

    Thanks Annie, right know i am using commercial food for my Labs.
    I will try your recipe. Thank you for sharing

  33. ann says:

    hello my name is ann
    I have a five half pond Chihuahua. His name is sam I just started him on our food and took him off dog food kibbles I am looking for some recipes Sam does have some allergies he itches and choose his paws. If anybody could help me I’d appreciate it thank you.

  34. Barb foote says:

    I have a 13 year old mixed breed, 20 lb. neuter female dog with pancreatitis. I’ve been cooking for her for about a year now. My homemade
    Food is very much like your recipe. The vet said to boil the meat so all the fat is cooked off. I like the idea of adding spinach and oats
    I’m going to try it. She loves her food!! Thank you for sharing your recipe!!!!

  35. Linda says:

    I’ve been making food for my dogs now for about six months and they are doing great. In fact, my chi mix was overweight and has lost three pounds and is now maintaining his weight. I started making their food because of the high cost of premium kibble and the numerous problems with eating lower priced kibble–vomiting and diarrhea. I’m always looking for new recipes to add variety to their diet. They love the ground turkey, brown rice, carrots, peas and kidney bean meal as well as the doggy meatloaf. No doubt they will love your recipe as well.

    • Annie M says:

      Thanks Linda! Feel free to share any of your recipes here too, a lot of us are making the “Snicker’s Stew” and we find it really helps with itchy skin & allergies (which many dogs in the Los Angeles area are afflicted with for some reason) thanks for stopping by!

  36. Jen says:

    Hello,

    Thank you for sharing your recipe. I recently adopted a puppy and from the start I knew I was going to make her own food. I’ve looked at a lot of different recipes and decided to try this one. I made this batch about a month ago and she loves it. It didn’t come out quite as pictured; I’ll have to eyeball the recipe for the next batch. Here are a couple of pictures:

    The only thing I do differently is just crush a supplement and add it to the food when I serve it. I’m going to try crushing eggshells like someone mentioned. I also try to keep her diet varied with different kinds of meats, so I switch up what kind of batches I make for her.

    She really enjoys it. Sometimes when I have to travel with her I can’t bring her homemade food and will bring holistic canned foods with me as portable meals. But ever since she started eating this, she takes her time eating the regular dog food and will scarf down the homemade stuff.

    I always hear people say that ‘human food’ is bad for dogs, but this is a ‘Western’ way of thinking…not to mention ‘Western’ food typically contains a lot of sodium which is obviously bad for the dogs as well as for humans. But before I owned dogs I’ve briefly lived in a country where premade dog foods were not available or just very expensive. Most people who owned dogs fed them a diet of table scraps and whatever they picked up from the local butcher and those dogs were perfectly fine.

    It’s been a few months now and she is happy and healthy.

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